Cathie Wood: GM, Ford EV slowdown helps Tesla, Elon Musk


Ark Invest CEO Cathie Wood has long been bullish on Elon Musk and Tesla. She’s also been expecting Detroit automakers to follow the path Musk has forged with electric vehicles.

“We expected a lot of traditional auto manufacturers to see the writing on the wall and rush as quickly as they could into scaling big-time into electric vehicles,” she told Bloomberg Surveillance this week. 

Instead, they’ve been decelerating their EV plans, wary of EV growth that—while still strong—has lately slowed. Wood, coming off her best month ever in November after a wobbly stretch, views their decisions as being good for Tesla in the long run.

General Motors had planned to build 400,000 EVs over a roughly two-year stretch ending in mid-2024. But in October, it abandoned that target, with CFO Paul Jacobson citing a slowdown in the EV market. Production of the electric pickup trucks Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra in suburban Detroit would be delayed by a year, the company said.

Read More: Chinese EV makers are planning factories in Mexico—and the U.S. is worried it’s a ‘back door’ to undercutting the Big 3 carmakers

This month, Ford said it’s cutting production goals for its signature F-150 Lightning pickup, down from 3,200 to 1,600 per week due to slowing demand. And in November, it restarted work on a EV battery plant, but with scaled-back ambitions, saying it would produce roughly 40% fewer batteries than planned. 

While EV growth has slowed in recent months, it’s still robust. According to J.D. Power, some 869,000 fully electric vehicles were sold in the U.S. in the first 10 months of 2023—a 56% jump over the year-ago period, but a slowdown from two years earlier.

“The narrative has taken over that EVs aren’t growing,” Ford CFO John Lawler said in October. “They’re growing . . . It’s just growing at a slower pace than the industry, and quite frankly, we, expected.”

Ford recorded a $1.3 billion loss in its EV division in the third quarter, and has forecast a full-year loss of $4.5 billion for the unit.

But such losses are necessary and expected, believes Wood:

“Both GM and Ford have said, ‘We’re stepping back. We’re not going to do this until it’s profitable.’ The problem with that is in order to be profitable, they need to scale. That’s how this works. These are learning curves that they are writing down, and those are expressed in cost declines.”

Their hesitation, however, will only benefit Tesla more, she thinks.

“The fact that they’re pulling back,” she said, “means there’s more share for Tesla and others who choose to go for it.” 

Read More: After Elon Musk predicts leading carmakers will be Chinese, smartphone giant Xiaomi unveils first EV and vows to be in ‘world’s top 5’

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